More about Pinellas mess

Yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times teased in their education blog today’s story about the Pinellas County school board’s creationist majority. The board members are confused. They worry that students will have a tough time meshing the scientific theory of evolution with their personal and family religious beliefs. And it would seem the school board members themselves are experiencing the same dilemma. For these folks, this is not about the supposed non-religious idea of intelligent design getting equal time with evolution. Forget that paradigm. This is blatantly about wanting some form of religion in the science classroom. Read what these people are saying:

“I think that students should be given the opportunity to view all theories on how man evolved and let their science background and their religious background take over as to which one they believe in,” said Gallucci, also the immediate past president of the National School Boards Association.

O’Shea worries that children who are taught creationism at home might be confused by evolution. And Bostock wonders if creationism could be taught without saying it’s science.

Yes, creationism could be taught without saying it’s science. Just not in the science classroom. Talk about it in a class about world cultures, or comparative religions or philosophy.

Evolution is not a story of creation. It makes no statement on how life started. It addresses the vast diversity of life and how it has changed over time. It’s based on an overwhelming body of facts gathered by thousands of scientists over the past 150 years since Darwin first published his findings. Evolution makes no statement on religion, just like gravity and germs make no statements on religion. Many religious faiths have no problem accepting the facts of evolution.

Fortunately, there are voices of reason on these school boards, even if they are in the minority:

For Clark and Lerner, there is no issue.

“Creationism is a philosophy. It should be taught in synagogues, in mosques and in churches,” Lerner said. “Evolution should be taught in science class because it’s based on scientific evidence.”

To do otherwise would violate the separation of church and state, she said.

Clark, a former middle school science teacher, said the proposed standards are a “step into the 21st century.” She pointed to a recent study that found American students lagging behind many of their international peers in science.

“Let’s start teaching the Bible as science,” Clark said, “and then see how our students compete against the rest of the world.”

You can read the full interviews, not just what made it into the story, at the newspaper’s education blog. Note how some folks are not beating around the bush. The clearly want creationism in the classroom and they say so!

Florida Today has a good editorial today that addresses this matter. It’s the fifth newspaper to write about how important science is without religious interference.

Intelligent design advocates sometimes claim students should be taught both sides of what they call “the controversy” over evolutionary theory for the sake of academic freedom.

But there is no controversy, since evolutionary theory underlies all of biology and reflects volumes of rigorous, repeatedly tested and undeniable evidence.

That’s why a federal judge in Pennsylvania last year rightly ruled Dover, Pa. schools can’t require the teaching of intelligent design because that would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

And why a January article in the official Vatican newspaper endorsed that ruling and said evolution does not conflict with Roman Catholic teaching.

The list of education decision makers in Florida who don’t understand science and who want to insert some form of religious belief into the science classroom is growing. Take a look for yourself. Let’s do something about it before the anti-science advocates do some serious harm to science education in our state. You can participate in the “All I Want for Christmas is a Good Science Education” project. Other groups are also mobilizing, offering their own campaigns to save sound science. And there are still two more public meetings concerning the draft science standards. Consider attending one and being heard!

January 3, 2008, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership

Schultz Center

4019 Boulevard Center Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32207
(904) 348-5757

January 8, 2008, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Everglades High School
17100 SW 48 CT.
Miramar, FL 33025
(754) 323-0500

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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